Tuesday 02 November 2010
Tatra was the traditional automaker of state-of-the-art luxurious automobiles in the Czechoslovakia. Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I was using NW type T, the Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was driving in the twelve-valve Tatra T80 while his successor Edvard Beneš was driving the streamlined Tatra T87. While T87 was manufactured from 1936 to 1950, the post-war T600 may be considered to be the first car for the new political establishment. The T600 was much smaller and using only four valve engine, being therefore descendant of T97, small pre-war Tatra, production of which was stopped by the Nazis in order to cover its resemblance to their KDF-Wagen (later VW bug). As the production of T600 ended in the 1952, the central planning commission decided, that Tatra shall manufacture only trucks, while luxury cars will be imported from USSR.
However the enthusiastic Tatra designers continued their work on a new car in secrecy. In 1952 a group of designers led by František Kardaus and Vladimír Popelář started secret development of a new car called Valuta; officially they were spending all time on development of a new three-axle bus T400. In 1953 the communist government got fed up with delays in delivery of Soviet cars as well as with their poor quality and they ordered development of a new luxury Tatra, thus giving legitimacy to the teams previous work. The new car was to have 3,5 litre air cooled eight valve engine and it was to be ready for production till the end of 1954. While the carrossery was almost ready due to the work on Valuta, the engine remained an issue. Even in their secret designs nobody was counting with such a large engine. Engineer Julius Mackerle proposed a "temporary" solution of using the already developed T603 engine of 2,5litres displacement in the new car (it was already successfully used in Tatra racecars and Tatra T87-603), while the larger one was supposed to be ready in next 4–5 years.
The first driveable T603 was finished in 1955. A number of carrosseries were tested in wind-tunnels, in the end the one proposed by František Kardas and fine-tuned by Vladimír Popelář and Josef Chalupa was chosen for production.
Three versions of the model T603 were manufactured successively between 1956 and 1975. These cars are designated T603, T 2-603 and T 3-603, though the -3 was not an official designation used by Tatra.
The T603-1 is easily distinguished by its three headlamps enclosed beneath a clear glass cover.
- engine: V8
- capacity: 2545 cc
- horsepower: 105 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 175 km/h